This was an exceptional year in many ways for the ever-thriving Louisville music scene. LEO received almost a hundred records from our neighbors alone, a healthy sign of a fertile bed.
Americana quartet Houndmouth came from out of seemingly nowhere (well, OK, New Albany) and went from playing to dozens to selling out Headliners Music Hall, releasing their first EP through London’s Rough Trade Records, recording their first full-length, and touring around the country.
The Forecastle Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with the biggest and best fest yet, co-curated by My Morning Jacket, who enjoyed another year of touring, seeing a million faces, and rocking them all.
Wax Fang returned, though without drummer Kevin Ratterman, who finally moved his recording studio out of his family’s funeral home, making it slightly less weird but much more functional.
In the wake of ear X-tacy’s demise, several smaller, more niche-oriented stores popped up (often inside other stores) and kept buyers supplied with everything from vintage vinyl to new underground cassettes.
The most important news this year was also the worst, as musician, artist and writer Jason Noble passed across the eighth dimension, after a three-year fight for his life. The legacy he left was far greater than his circumstances, and he will live on forever in the hearts of everyone he impacted.
On a happier note, here’s a look back at some of the music LEO critics enjoyed listening to, discussing and writing about this year:
The Filthy Fifteen
Producer, bassist and beatmaker Richard Herrell worked his contacts list to put together his first “producer album” with some of the city’s nastiest emcees. Rich’s production is dark, brooding — think Dre’s minor key melancholia with a boom-bap bend. —Damien McPherson
Grand National Dreams
Grand National Dreams is, simply, great. The title is a double entendre, a paean to the 1980s car, but more fittingly, a horizon-deep look at the future — a glimpse to Jalin’s expanse beyond our borders and to his grand national reality. —DM
Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls
Highly recommended for lovers of sounds both familiar and surprising, this makes quiet sound confident and vibrant while retaining bouncy hooks and harmonies. —Peter Berkowitz
Catherine Irwin is nothing if not patient. Her songs are leisurely and deliberate, seductive in their Southern Gothic charms for those who let them take over. Irwin’s songs are beautiful but dark, tinged with a pinch of humor and a pound of lonesome, and her country has more in common with Hank Sr. or Hazel Dickens than modern pop stars like Blake Shelton. —PB
CJ Prof is one of the most aggressive yet nimble emcees you’ll ever hear. The passion, anger and humor he displays throughout the disc will carry the group as far as they’re willing to travel. The production is a dense, at times murky gumbo of rock guitar, breakbeats and live deejaying. —DM
Melt stands out in contrast against a wash of hybrid indie-disco-punk-dance bands with accomplished songwriting and remarkably pristine production. —Jon Paul Hill
On a Passing Cloud
Murals have been subtly honing their craft for a while now, concocting an indie-psych buzz sound from an earlier era, or at least a different time zone. —PB
Our Home Is a Deathbed
With a multidimensional approach to hardcore — from thrashing caustic punk to more emotional, swelling melodic moments — Xerxes craft a focused vision that gives Home a dense and unique vibe. —Austin Weber
Seluah’s long-gestating first full-length album is nothing short of a masterpiece. A hypothetical soundtrack for a chilling, sexed-up Nicholas Ray film noir filled with double-crossings, misbegotten sex and stolen money, Red Parole is a precise, sensual overload of cutting riffs, floating rhythms and haunting vocals. —PB
Each song, although a cappella, has percussive elements, a bassline and a melody. That percussion is reflected in various shapes and forms on their self-titled studio album. The occasional echo gives the three-part harmonies an otherworldly, timeless quality. —Danielle Sills
We’re looking forward to a lot next year, including new music from Wax Fang, Liberation Prophecy, Cheyenne Mize, Johnny Berry & the Outliers, Appalatin, Justin Paul Lewis, the aforementioned Houndmouth, plus Jim James’ long-awaited first solo album. We’re excited to get our world rocked by the next left-field surprise, and thankful for another year of sharing the adventure with you